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Revolutions and Forms of Politics in North Africa and the Middle East: Boussoufism and the Constitution of the Algerian state - 11 October 2022

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An important reason why the uprisings that swept the Middle East in the wake of the Tunisian Revolution all failed to fulfill the revolutionary aspirations which animated them was that they were not informed or guided by forms of politics capable of constituting a new state (Libya) or of either overthrowing, or securing a qualitative reform of, the existing state (Bahrain, Egypt, Syria, Yemen).

The Algerian Revolution of 1954-62 succeeded, despite the fact that the National Liberation Front (Front de Libération Nationale, FLN) disintegrated in 1962, because a remarkable form of politics had developed within the FLN and was able not only to constitute an independent Algerian state but also to guarantee the state’s stability for the next two decades. This form of politics was developed by Abdelhafidh Boussouf and his close associates. Boussouf (1926-1980) was one of the founders of the FLN and one of the leading colonels of the National Liberation Army (Armée de Libération Nationale, ALN) and commander of ALN wilaya V (Oranie) in 1956-7.

He was also the creator of the Algerian intelligence services and the most purposeful and far-sighted member of the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic (Gouvernement Provisioire de la République Algérienne, GPRA) from 1958 to 1962. The partial eclipse of Boussoufism from 1980 onwards was a premise of the eventual destabilisation of Algeria in 1988-92.

The recovery of influence of the Boussoufist tendency within the power structure was a key factor in the restabilisation of the state under President Bouteflika between 1999 and 2004 and in the resolution of the crisis of the presidential succession in the spring of 2019.


Dr Hugh Roberts is the Edward Keller Professor of North African and Middle Eastern History at Tufts University. He is a specialist on North Africa and has carried out in-depth research, including extensive fieldwork, on Algeria in particular. He took up his post at Tufts in January 2012. In 2015-2016 he was also the Simons Visiting Professor in Dialogue on International Law and Human Security at Simon Fraser University. Between 1976 and 1997 he lectured at the Universities of East Anglia, Sussex, California (Berkeley) and the School of Oriental and African Studies in the University of London. From 1997 to 2002 he was a Senior Research Fellow at the London School of Economics. He has also worked outside academia as an independent scholar and consultant and as Director of the International Crisis Group’s North Africa Project from 2002 to 2007 and again from February to July 2011. He is the author of The Battlefield: Algeria 1988-2002. Studies in a broken polity (Verso, 2003; p/b 2015); Berber Government: the Kabyle polity in pre-colonial Algeria (I.B. Tauris, 2014; p/b 2017); Algérie-Kabylie: Études et interventions (Éditions Barzakh, 2014); and Gouvernement Berbère: La Cité kabyle dans l’Algérie précoloniale (Éditions Barzakh, forthoming 2022).

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